A California kind of Renaissance man — musician, actor, surfer, talk-show host — Chris Isaak has maintained a steady, if slightly below-radar, presence for 25 years now. ("Wicked Game" was on the charts in 1991.) You'd think a handsome guy with a pompadour and a retro-hip aesthetic wouldn't be built to last, but Isaak has an effortless, almost magical timelessness about him. His suave, crooning country rock is reminiscent of the songs of Roy Orbison, to whom Isaak pays tribute, along with other Sun Studio recording artists Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins, on his most recent album, 2011's Beyond the Sun.
Saturday, December 1, at the Uptown Theater (3700 Broadway, 816-753-8665)
One of the best-reviewed hip-hop albums of 2012 is Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, the major-label debut from Kendrick Lamar. The Compton, California, rapper is a protégé of Dr. Dre and is being hailed as an heir to the West Coast hip-hop throne. But Good Kid is not The Chronic 2012; it's more catholic than that. Lamar's flow is like a bridge between the smooth, G-funk tones of old Death Row stars and the moody croons that guys like Drake, Kanye West and now Frank Ocean have ushered into the mainstream. Elsewhere you can detect echoes of everyone from Nas to Lil Wayne. It's a pretty uneven album when it comes down to it — but in an impressive, swing-for-the-fences type of way.
Sunday, December 2, at the Midland (1228 Main, 816-283-9921)
The thread that runs through Kinky Friedman's schizophrenic career is satire. The Jewish Texan has composed and performed country songs, written books and magazine columns, and run for governor of the Lone Star State. (He lost, in 2006, to Rick Perry, a man whose behavior we have come to learn is not intentionally satirical.) Friedman stops by Knuckleheads this week as part of his 2012 Bi-Polar Tour. He'll be performing classic songs, like "Ride 'Em Jewboy," and possibly discussing a second run at the Texas governor's office, which he has been hinting at lately.
Friday, November 30, at Knuckleheads Saloon (2715 Rochester, 816-483-1456)
In recent years, the Internet has presided over a rise in what I've been calling "grotesque pop stars" — acts like Riff Raff, Die Antwoord and Kreayshawn. Basically, these are people who are mocking the idea of stupid pop stars by dressing up and making videos in which they pretend to be stupid pop stars. In some cases, record executives have come to believe that these people might actually become pop stars and have signed them to lucrative contracts — as in the case of Kreayshawn, a 22-year-old Oakland film-school dropout who inked a $1 million deal with Sony on the strength of a single viral hit called "Gucci Gucci." Are you exhausted yet? Well, take a breath: Kreayshawn's album dropped earlier this year, and it broke the record for lowest-selling major-label debut of all time. It turns out that the Internet-to-IRL exchange rate for irony is not quite as favorable as Tumblr sometimes leads one to believe.
Tuesday, December 4, at the Granada (1020 Massachusetts, Lawrence, 785-842-1390)
Tulsa's Broncho runs on the twin engines of classic power pop and punk rock; the band wouldn't have been out of place on the much-loved Kansas City label Titan Records in the late 1970s and early '80s. Regionally, the quartet has been gigging its ass off for the last few years — Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Kansas and Missouri — and has accumulated a growing fanbase of garage-rock diehards in the process. With local openers the Empty Spaces, Interstate Astronauts and the KC Bear Fighters.
Friday, November 30, at Czar (1531 Grand, 816-421-0300)